In Episode 11 of “Unpacking Islamophobia,” our guest is Shireen Ahmed who is an award-winning sports activist, multi-platform sports journalist, and public speaker. Her work focuses on Muslim women, and the intersections of racism and misogyny in sports. Shireen is a co-host for the Burn It All Down Podcast and she is also a senior contributor for CBC Sports in Canada, as well as an instructor at Toronto Metropolitan University.
Ahmed begins the podcast episode by noting that every different professional sport and/or different countries have different rules/policies about whether to allow hijab-wearing female athletes to participate or not. At the global level, she notes that all National Olympic Committees are “supposed to adhere” to allowing athletes “free entry” to participate without “discrimination on grounds of religion, color, or political affiliation” which would include wearing a hijab.
Generally speaking, Ahmed further stated that regional and grassroots leagues all over the world would permit hijab in various circumstances, depending on individual cases. For international soccer, she also stated that the governing global federation known as FIFA initially banned a Canadian soccer player from wearing hijab as early as 2007. She also wanted to “remind everybody that the majority of international federations, the table is completely full of men” who don’t have any connection to this issue affecting women.
Ahmed concluded by noting that other global sports like basketball have been more permissive at the global Olympic level, although countries like France are banning their own female Muslim basketball players from wearing hijab at the national level which she calls “an unbelievable spectacle of hypocrisy and discrimination”. She is hopeful that policies will hopefully change as more female Muslim athletes continue to stand up for their legal rights across the wide world of global sports.
Shireen Ahmed is an award-winning sports activist, multi-platform sports journalist, and public speaker. Her work focuses on Muslim women, and the intersections of racism and misogyny in sports. Shireen is a co-host for the Burn It All Down Podcast and she is also a senior contributor for CBC Sports in Canada, as well as an instructor at Toronto Metropolitan University.
Arsalan Iftikhar is Senior Researcher for the Bridge Initiative at the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Arsalan is a prominent human rights lawyer, an internationally recognized researcher on the topic of Islamophobia, and a global media commentator. He is the author of several books including FEAR OF A MUSLIM PLANET: Global Islamophobia in the New World Order and Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms which President Jimmy Carter called “an important book that shows Islamophobia must be addressed urgently”. Throughout his career, Arsalan has been a regular on-air commentator for National Public Radio (NPR) and his interviews have appeared on prominent global media outlets like CNN, Al-Jazeera English, BBC World News, The Economist, New York Times, Rolling Stone, NBC News “Meet The Press” & many more. A native of Chicago, Arsalan was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Young Alumni Award from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees.